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R. Kelly asked to be freed from a federal jail on Thursday, citing coronavirus concerns as the reason for his release.
He currently awaits trial in a Chicago jail on child pornography and other charges. A court filing by his lawyers saying scant precautions to stem the spread of the virus behind bars put Kelly’s life at risk.
The filing claims that sanitizer and soap are scarce in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), where inmates are kept in small cells with a cellmate, making social distancing difficult.
The 53-year-old, whose full name is Robert Kelly, faces several dozen counts of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York, from sexual assault to heading a racketeering scheme aimed at supplying him with girls. The Grammy Award-winning singer has denied ever abusing anyone.
The filing cites Kelly’s age and “existing health issues” as reasoning for him to be released on bail.
“The health risk to Mr. Kelly, because of his age and existing health issues, especially considering the conditions at the MCC, necessitates his release on bail,” it says.
Thursday’s 18-page filing didn’t describe Kelly’s exact health issues, but it said he was within the category of people described as high-risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The courts have long recognized that there is no greater necessity than keeping a defendant alive, no matter the charge,” the filing says.
While the MCC barred most visitors on March 13, there are few detectable protocols for screening lawyers, guards and new detainees still entering the facility to check if they might be infected, the filing says. The visiting floor has sanitizer, but a sign next to the single bottle available says “STAFF ONLY;” and a bathroom on the same floor often has no soap, according to the filing.
If Kelly is released, he would live with his girlfriend, Joycelyn Savage, at a Chicago loft apartment and could remain on home confinement with an electronic monitor, the filing says. His trial date in Chicago is Oct. 13.
The judge in his federal case in New York also ordered that Kelly be detained while awaiting trial, so Kelly’s lawyers would also have to persuade that judge to grant him bail before he could be freed in Chicago.
The federal charges in Chicago accuse Kelly of filming himself having sex with underage girls and of paying off potential witnesses in his 2008 trial — at which he was acquitted — to get them to change their stories.
The federal courthouse in Chicago has delayed civil and most criminal proceedings to allow judges and staff to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak. It continues to hold hearings deemed urgent, some of which can be conducted by phone or video streaming.
Fox News has reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.